The Petite Ceinture is a 17 mile railway circumscribing central Paris. It was built in 1852 to connect the Gares of Paris, became one of the world's first suburban transit systems, and fell into disuse during the 1930's as the Paris Metro succeeded it in efficiency. Today it is abandoned and little known, preserved by indecision over its future. It is a retreat from the city, and a home for underground culture. In places raised up, depressed or underground, it is an exceptional place to look back upon the city of Paris.
This is a rough journal of what I've found on the P.C. as well as during walks around Paris.

mercredi 23 juillet 2008

Parks, their proximity to the Petite Ceinture, and what this might mean for the future of the Ceinture

Many of Paris’ major parks have historically been built at the periphery of Paris, where land is available; cheap, abandoned, or in need of transformation. Bois de Boulogne (to the West, designed by engineer Jean Charles-Alphand and Jean-Pierre Barillet-Deschamps) and Bois de Vincennes (to the South-East, also by Alphand (of Buttes Chaumont fame) with architect Jacques Hirtoff) were formalized as parks by Napoleon III during the 1850’s – 60’s. They were conceived as the ‘lungs’ of Paris – transforming extant, but ‘dangerous’ forests into breathing room for an increasingly congested city (Paris’ population had almost doubled within the 20 years between 1851 and 1870 from 1.05 million to 1.97 million (Paris through the Ages, plate XIVa). At the same time, other parks were being developed toward the periphery of Paris. Parc Buttes Chaumont (pictured below), an old gypsum quarry (hence Plaster of Paris) in the North-East of Paris (19eme), was conceived by Alphand, and converted into a hugely popular park between 1866-67. Parc Montsouris, to the South, was conceived in 1860, inaugurated in 1869, and fully completed in 1878. It is built over an area of Paris that was heavily quarried for limestone, leaving a warren of ‘Carrieres’ that compromised the integrity of the soil and thus rendered the area unsuitable for building upon. The Petite Ceinture runs through both Buttes Chaumont and Parc Montsouris, and kisses Bois de Boulogne and Bois de Vincennes on the city-side of each.

Indeed, the Petite Ceinture is integrated into the concept of Parc Buttes Chaumont as a ‘reclaimed’ industrial site, bringing attention to the infrastructure. The railway is exposed in a trench along most of the east side of the park. Look outs are situated adjacent to the track. A bridge was constructed over the track, and a restaurant sits above the mouth of the tunnel, looking along the track, as it is oriented on axis with the track itself (pictured below).

This notion of ‘public infrastructure expressed’, particularly with regard to transport, is common throughout Paris. The metro line 6, running over the Seine at bridge Bir Hakim (pictured below), and metro line 2 (pictured two beneath), occupying the footprint of the Fermiers around Paris built between 1784-89, both express the might of industrial technology. They reveal the pulse of the urban routine and provide unique views and public interaction for both passengers and those at street level.
Large steel and iron trusses carry passengers above ground, supporting gathering spaces, commerce, and pedestrian throughways beneath. In turn, the metro passenger experiences their city in a way that the underground metro, pedestrian, cycle, or vehicular transport does not afford. The Eiffel Tower and the Pompidou Center are both icons of infrastructural expression – the movement of the public up through the city, or through the façade of a densely urban area is thus facilitated.

More recent parks have continued the traditions of building toward the periphery of Central Paris, reclaiming abandoned industrial sites, or sites in need of transformation, while expressing public infrastructure. Like Parc Buttes Chaumont, Parc Andre Citroen, pictured below, (built between 1992 - 1999 by landscape architects Gilles Clement and Alain Provost) celebrates its intersection with an existing railway line (RER C, which was once a spur of the Petite Ceinture network).
Toward the West end of the park the Seine is framed by the horizon of the parc and the graceful lines of a railway bridge. Passengers witness the activity of the park as they pass above, while park visitors are reminded of the rhythms of city life while they take their leisure. In addition, the parc occupies the footprint of an old, iconic industrial site – the demolished Citroen factory, after which the quay beyond is named. The Petite Ceinture runs along the southern edge of the Park’s "Black garden".
Parc de la Villette (designed by Bernard Tschumi (furniture by Phillippe Starck) in 1982, in consultation with French philosopher Gilles Deleuze) also sits on an abandoned industrial site - the old slaughter house district, and its design is ostensibly geared towards bringing the observer’s attention to the history and infrastructure of the site. Canal de l’Ourcq, which once brought livestock from the North-east of France, runs through the middle of the Parc (pictured below).
The Petite Ceinture runs within .1 miles of the southern edge of the Parc, near the “access ouest”. The P.C. and the parc share an exceptional view of one another at the point where the Petite Ceinture crosses the Canal de l’Ourcq along a heavy truss bridge.

It is arguable that the Bamboo garden pictured below (Alexandre Chemetev), within Parc de la Villette, is more successful than Parc de la Villette in bringing attention to its position relative to the surrounding infrastructure. Weepholes in the wall register the moisture content in the soil, which is effected by the leakage of water into the soil from the nearby canal.This creates a micro climate – warmer and moister – that facilitates the growth of a wide varibamboo that would be otherwise unable to grow in Paris. As is true throughout much of Paris, pedestrian paths are aligned above sewer lines, an infrastructural intersection that is highly articulated in the Bamboo garden.

Parc de Bercy, pictured below, (designed and built between 1993-1997 by architects Bernard Huet, Madeleine Ferrand, Jean-Pierre Feugas, Bernard Leroy, and landscape architects Ian Le Caisne and Phillippe Raguin) is in the South-East of Paris, running along the Right bank of the Seine. It occupies the strip of land once designated to the reception and storage of wine from the South of France. Railway tracks, cobbled alleys, mature plane (Platon/sycamores) trees that once shaded the wine barrels, and wine cellars have been integrated into the design of this park. The Petite Ceinture once connected to this railyard, and the line passes within ¼ mile from the south-eastern edge of the Parc.Other, smaller parks dot the periphery of Paris. The newly constructed Parc de Belleville, above, (built in 1988, designed by Francois Debulois) cascades down the southern side of ButteBelleville in the east of Paris, and offers an excellent view of Central Paris. It runs over the Petite Ceinture, which emerges at the southern tip of the Park.

Jardin de la Gare de Charonne, below, in the east (20eme), occupies a small lot adjacent to the Petite Ceinture.

The Promenade Plantee, which is a comparable and useful precedent for sites such as the Petite Ceinture or the New York High Line, and Square Charles Peguy (designed by Jacques Vergely, landscape architect, and Phillippe Mathieux, architect) is a reclaimed rail viaduct that was once a spur from the Petite Ceinture towards Gare de Lyon. The Promenade Plantee and the Petite Ceinture intersect in the South-East of Paris, just north of Parc de Bercy.

Jardin du Moulin de la Pointe and Jardin Juan Miro, are in the South of Paris (13eme), near the Porte d'Italie. They are both modestly sized. Jardin du Moulin de la Pointe covers much of the surface of the P.C. tunnel running between Rue du Moulin de la Pointe and Ave. Pl. de l'Italie. Parc George Brassens, pictured above and below, (opened in 1974) is an 8.7 hectare park that ooccupies an old abbatoir district in the South of Paris (14eme). The Petite Ceinture runs under the park, and along the full stretch of its southern edge.

In the South-West corner of Paris, south of Parc Andre Citroen, is Square Carlo Sarrabezolles. It is just south of the Petite Ceinture, near Pont Carrigliano, on the other side of the Maracheux.

Much of the Petite Ceinture along the Western edge of Paris (mostly in the 16eme) is now parkway - on grade, with tracks removed. The remainder has been filled in and consists of parking lots, tennis courts and small community parks. This western stretch of the Ceinture is interrupted in the middle of the Western edge of Paris by Jardin Ranelegh (early 1900's).

Parc Clichy Batignolles, pictured in the middle of the image below, (opened in 2007) is a 4.5 hectare garden in the North-East of Paris (17eme), taking the place of obsolete railyards and sheds near Junction St. Lazare. It aims to bridge the existing green space of inner Paris (specifically Square Batignolles, at the bottom of the picture) with the suburbs beyond the Peripherique.

Increasing focus is being placed on this area of Paris, and considerable development is due to occur around the Park. The Petite Ceinture runs within .1 mile of the North end of the Parc, and would run through the middle of the development pictured above (looking North).

1 commentaire:

Özer Utku a dit…

Place as beautiful as heaven. I have traveled to Paris for two weeks. Even I have written here.